FBR tightens noose on Benami asset holders

Irshad ansari – September 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD.: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has notified three benches under its Adjudicating Authority – formed in June this year – in its latest push to tighten the noose round the people who hold Benami properties in Pakistan.

With announcement of these benches – established in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi – the Adjudicating Authority has become fully functional three months after its announcement.

The FBR on June 30 issued a notification, saying consequent upon approval of the federal government and in pursuance of Section 6 of Benami Transactions (Prohibition Act) 2017, an Adjudicating Authority is established with effect from July 1.

In its notification issued on Friday, the FBR said after approval of the government, the board has also determined jurisdiction of each of the benches. The bench in Islamabad will hear Benami cases related to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and Punjab’s Rawalpindi division.

The Lahore bench will adjudicate cases of entire Punjab excluding Rawalpindi Division. The bench in Karachi will hear Benami assets cases from Sindh and Balochistan.

After formation of the authority, the delay in determining seats of the benches and their jurisdictions raised concerns about further delay in deciding Benami cases and getting recoveries.

In this situation, the Adjudicating Authority Chairperson Jamil Ahmed wrote a letter to the government and requested that summary for the three benches dated July 18 be approved.

The letter stated that the officers posted in the Benami Zones had started their work and they would soon start sending cases to the Adjudicating Authority. Hence, it was requested that the steps be taken to avoid any delay in the adjudication process.

Taking action on the letter, the government issued the notification, said the sources.

A concerned officer said the Directorate General Anti-Benami Initiative has already started its work to eliminate white-collar crimes from the country and to take action against Benami properties.

It has not only issued notices to some Benami asset holders but also prepared references against them. The concerned officer said the officers of the directorate and its subordinate bodies will be able to freeze and seize Benami properties, luxury cars, bank accounts, offshore companies and shares.

Framework of the directorate and jurisdiction if its subordinate officers and functions have also been determined. This directorate will trace the Benami bank accounts, luxury cars, offshore investment and stock and shares and take action against them.

The directorate will report to the national coordinator over implementation of the Benami Transactions Act 2017. In this regard, the FBR has officially issued a detailed 4-page order in which it has been clarified that owing to lack of rules and laws against Benami properties, all anti-corruption agencies and bodies have failed to trace the real owners.

It said documentation of the real owners had not taken place and this had allowed the culprits to get away with their crimes. However, now the government has made the Benami Transaction Act 2017 completely operational.

The Express Tribune

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